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Lung Cancer Rarer in Sunny Countries?

Study Links Sunshine to Lower Lung Cancer Rates; Vitamin D May Be Why
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 18, 2007 -- A new study shows that sunshine may make lung cancer less likely, thanks to vitamin D, which the body makes when exposed to sunshine.

The study tracks lung cancer rates in 111 countries. Lung cancer rates were lower in countries along the equator than in countries far from the equator.

The pattern held regardless of the countries' smoking statistics, note the researchers, who included Sharif Mohr, MPH, of the University of California, San Diego's department of family and preventive medicine.

But the findings don't mean that moving to the tropics (or ditching your sunscreen) will prevent lung cancer.

Mohr and colleagues looked at the big picture -- national and international trends -- but not at individual risk. They didn't test sunshine, ultraviolet light, or vitamin D for lung cancer prevention -- and they couldn't control for all possible influences on the data.

Other studies have linked vitamin D to lower cancer rates. But in October, cancer researchers reported that blood levels of vitamin D may not affect cancer death rates, except for colorectal cancer.

Mohr and colleagues call for further studies to check the effects of vitamin D on lung cancer risk.

Their report appears in January's edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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